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Radiofrequency ablation (or RFA) is a procedure used to reduce pain. An electrical current produced by a radio wave is used to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, thereby decreasing pain signals from that specific area.
RFA can be used to help patients with chronic (long-lasting) low-back and neck pain and pain related to the degeneration of joints from arthritis.
The degree of pain relief varies, depending on the cause and location of the pain. Pain relief from RFA can last from six to 12 months and in some cases, relief can last for years. More than 70% of patients treated with RFA experience pain relief.
RFA has proven to be a safe and effective way to treat some forms of pain. It also is generally well-tolerated, with very few associated complications. There is a slight risk of infection and bleeding at the insertion site. Your doctor can advise you about your particular risk.
The main side effect of RFA is some discomfort, including swelling and bruising at the site of the treatment, but this generally goes away after a few days.
As with any medical procedure, RFA is not appropriate for everyone. For example, radiofrequency ablation is not recommended for people who have active infections or bleeding problems. Your doctor can tell you if you should not have RFA.